Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Have You Ever Made a Prank Call? Illustration Friday - Disguise

Yesterday I read an article about how to create blog headlines that will catch the attention of readers. One of the ways suggested was to make the headline a question.  Lest you think my headline is just an attention getter and has no relation to this week's post, read on.

The word for this week's Illustration Friday is "Disguise." I put off working on this challenge all week. I just didn't feel inspired. Yesterday I sat down and decided I would do something, even if it was just an illustration of a kid in a Halloween costume. That's a disguise, right? As I was sketching, I started to think about what else can be disguised other than one's appearance. Right away I thought about someone disguising their voice. That led me to thinking about prank phone calls. Prank phone calls made me think of the old Joan Crawford film, "I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are." This film, from 1965 was directed by William Castle, king of shlocky horror films and theatrical gimmicks. He's the man who put buzzers in the seats of one theatre showing his film, "The Tingler," so that when the Tingler appeared on screen, audience members would get a mild shock or tingle in their rear.  Anyway, "I Saw What You Did," is about two teenage girls, Libby and Kit, who make a series of prank phone calls. They call people at random and tell the person answering the phone, "I saw what you did and I know who you are." One of the people they reach has just committed a murder and is convinced that the caller is a witness.  Murderous consequences ensue.

Libby and Kit get in over their heads
So that was my inspiration for this week's illustration. I googled a few photos of telephones and found a photo from the film that served as further inspiration.

I didn't want to try and copy the photo, I wanted to make my kids younger, but I did reference it from time to time to look at how the phone was held and the lighting effects on the girl's hairstyles. I had a real problem designing the girl on the right. I sketched several versions of her until I finally managed to get her to look the way I imagined her in my head. You can see some of my earlier sketches below.

In creating this illustration, I did a series of preliminary digital pencil sketches in Painter 11. To create the final illustration, I primarily used three of Painter's brushes: the Dull Conte brush, the Acrylic Captured Bristle, and the Grainy Water Blender. For some of the details I used the Real Sharp Colored Pencil brush and for adjusting the shading, I used the Broad Water Brush. I started by blocking out my shades of gray, then went in and did some blending. I then added some details, did some more blending, added more shading, then more blending, etc. I went back and forth this way for quite a while. I ended up spending about 4 hours on this illustration, which was much longer than I had originally anticipated it would take. Unlike how I usually work, I created most of the image on one layer. The exception was the phone cord which I gave its own layer so that I could blend and adjust the figures behind it without obscuring the coiled cord details.

Here are some of the early sketches. My original drawing consisted of a lone girl sitting on her bed. She is holding a cloth over the phone receiver to disguise her voice. I wasn't happy with this and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to paint the cloth convincingly enough. Since it would be obscuring part of the phone, I was afraid it would end up confusing the viewers. So in the next version, I added the second girl, who is leaning toward her friend so she can listen in.  I also decided to get rid of the cloth. Instead, I decided to show the caller placing her hand over the receiver. That way I wouldn't be hiding any of the phone.

By the way, my experience with prank phone calls is pretty limited. I do remember as a kid making a few with my sister and cousins. I think we called people and asked them if their refrigerator was running.  When they said, "Yes, it is," we replied, "Well, you'd better run and catch it."


  1. Wow, that's great work. Love the contrast and characters.

  2. Wow... love your illustration! And the story is very interesting as well. Ho, wait... we have to answer it, right? hehehe... Yeah, I am afraid I did prank calls too, as a child. We use to call and say *Hi, it's your neighbor, you forgot to turn off your car's lights!* Weird prank, retrospectively, and I am not sure what was our goal (!) but back to your illo. Sooo nice to view the sketches too! Really beautiful illustration, characters are so well done.

  3. great post. and a cute illustration...
    remember this one: "get of the line, a train is coming!!!!"

  4. Super illustration with an interesting story and process.

  5. I remember watching that movie and being absolutely terrified. You captured the moment perfectly in your charming illustration. I swear that is me and my best friend Paula - she's the gutsy one making the call and I am the giggling onlooker. Thanks for the memory!

  6. Great illustration. I like that you created it in black and white. I had a friend growing up who had an old weekend house that was still on a party line. We didn't have to prank anyone; we just had to pick up the phone and listen for fun!